ABCi is a non profit organization with the goal of bringing English Language Immersion "Project Days" to every school in Austria. These project days are free to students who participate, and are taught by trainee teachers, who are not paid but are instead receiving training and experience along with a Trinity CertTESOL Certificate (equivalent to a CELTA).
The way these Project Days are funded is through Project Weeks. These project weeks cost 100 Euros per student and are taught by trainee teachers over the course of one week. Students spend one week of only English language instruction, and week culminates in an end of the week performance with songs and "dramas" invented by the students. This is the meat and potatoes of what ABCi does.
The ABCi campus is located in Vorchdorf, Austria. Vorchdorf is a small but fairly nice town located in Upper Austria. The nearest city of significant size is the tourist lake town Gmunden. Most trainees arrived in Vienna or Salzburg and made their way to Vorchdorf via train using Austria's easy to use ÖBB system. There are 2 small hotels and the majority of us spent 1 or 2 nights there, before making our way to the campus for the morning of our introduction.
The first morning was unsurprisingly quite hectic, everyone introduced themselves and went through the introductions. Director of studies Ben Stone addressed us and gave us an overview of what to expect over the coming months. We then spent the majority of our day at the Red Cross of Austria learning the basics of First Aid.
After our First Aid seminar, we were split into groups and taken to our "posts" across Austria. One team in Vienna, one in Graz, and one in St. Polten. For upcoming intakes however, these will likely be different as ABCi is going through some changes regarding this system.
During my time with ABCi my experience with accommodation ranged from excellent to horrible. My group's first accommodation was a wonderful house in Graz. We each had our own bedroom and a double bed, a nice living room and kitchen with all the amenities one could reasonably expect. Our first month was quite stressful - 10 to 12 hour days each day - and having a nice place to come home to kept us sane.
After our first one month "rotation," my group (Graz) as well as the other groups (St. Polten and Vienna) were transferred to one "large" flat in Vorchdorf. For many of us including myself, accommodation became the biggest thorn in our side during our time in Austria. We were asked before the course if sharing a bedroom was okay, although none of us expected to be living in a barracks-like environment. The accommodation supposedly fits 30 people, and at our peak we had 21 which was, to be frank, hellish. 21 people in one flat in the middle of summer, all of whom work 10 to 12 hours every day, sharing 2 toilets and 2 showers was truly the low point of our experience. In fact we all had some questions about whether the situation was even legal. My room had 4 bunk beds (3 filled) and no closet. 100% of the space was filled with our belongings and was brimming with mosquitoes. Every room in the house was boiling all night long and even though we all got along, a complete lack of privacy can begin to wear people down, especially people who work extremely hard all day long.
To ABCi's credit, after a meeting was called to discuss the situation in the house, steps were taken to improve the situation. An air conditioner was purchased, mosquito nets installed in the windows, fire extinguishers positioned throughout the house (yeah, we had none), and the flat downstairs was opened up to allow us to spread out more. The situation definitely improved for the second half of our stay in Vorchdorf.
The Day to Day:
The average day for an ABCi Trainee is a long one. You will regularly be expected to put in as much as 12 hours per day, including drive time, and you WILL be exhausted at the end of the day. You will adjust to the schedule and it will seem normal after some weeks, but it is truly a shock to the system.
An average day looks something like this:
0500: Wake up
0600-0730: Collected by your Senior Tutor and driven to school
1330-1500: Drive back to campus
1500-1730: Seminars - English Grammar, Teaching theory, etc
1730-???: Lesson plan, work on assignments, homework, etc
But hey, at least you have weekends off.
The course that I took was the Beginner Course. Don't let the name fool you. It's not a cakewalk. The Beginner course consists of 2 certifications. The Trinity CertTESOL, and the TEFL-YL. You will start by only using the standard ABCi lessons, but after attending seminars every day you will eventually begin to create your own lessons and implement them yourself. You will be graded on these lessons, given feedback on your teaching style, and expected to take that information and improve your teaching ability.
The classroom side of this program is truly excellent. It's well thought out and implemented intelligently. You will learn how to teach. Period.
BY THE END OF THE COURSE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO TEACH ENGLISH WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED AND YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK. If you take this course and you still aren't a good teacher, teaching just isn't for you.
At any given point during the course, you and your team will be assigned a Senior Tutor. There are several Senior Tutors and they will be rotated amongst your groups. All of them are excellent. They each have a different style and different perspective and all of their input is valuable. If you take their advice and follow their lead, you will do well, simple as that. The Senior Tutors are the best part of this course and their value cannot be overstated.
I highly recommend purchasing an ÖBB Vorteilscard as soon as you arrive in Austria. Use it to travel on the weekends and see Austria! It's a beautiful country with a lot to offer.
Time off is very hard to come by. Don't count on it.
It is likely that you get shuffled around a lot during the course. People do fail and holes do need to be filled as a result of that. Your group may be split up or you may be reassigned to a different city. Don't get too comfy.
Let me make this clear. This is NOT for everyone. If you don't have the energy to do this every single day, you will not make it. If you can't manage your time in an effective way, you will not make it. If you can't balance the academic side of the course with the practical side, you will not make it. If you are not up to the standards of this course YOU WILL BE SENT HOME. You will be dropped off at a train station, and you will be on your own.
I know this sounds scary, but don't let it deter you. Living with your teammates means you have a support system around you at all times. You will learn to work together and to help each other. You will commiserate together after horrible days and you will celebrate together after good ones. This experience is transformative one. You will leave with new relationships formed and a new perspective as well.
You will be well trained and have TONS of experience. You can leave Austria and go teach English ANYWHERE. As a result of this course I now have friends all over the world. In my group alone, you can find us in France, Italy, Cambodia, Japan, Spain, Latvia, South Korea, Morocco, and more.
ABCi is not always easy to deal with and this course is NOT a vacation, but it will open doors for you in ways you didn't even realize were possible.